Skip to main content

Full text of "On the Vedic Conception of the Earth. Atharva Veda, xii, 1"

See other formats


STOP 



Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World 

This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in 
the world by JSTOR. 

Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other 
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the 
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. 

We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this 
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial 
purposes. 

Read more about Early Journal Content at http://about.jstor.org/participate-jstor/individuals/early- 
journal-content . 



JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people 
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching 
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit 
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please 
contact support@jstor.org. 



321 



Art. XIII.— On the Vatic Conception of the Earth .' —Atharva 
Veda, xii, l. 2 — By Ciiakles 13huck, Esq. 

[Head Saturday, $th March, 18G2.] 

Tub following paper contains a translation of a Hymn to ilic 
Earth, from the Atharva- Veda, followed by some remarks on tlio 
structure of fhcoriginal composition, which the translator conceives to 
be made np of verses (in different, metres) drawn from different 
quarters and thrown together by the compiler. The translator then 
proceeds to explain the conception of the earth which the hymn 
exhibits, and to compare therewith some representations of ancient 
Greek writers on the same subject. 



Om! 

1. Truth which is mighty, righteousness which is strong, con- 
secration and dedication to holiness, prayer and sacrifice, sustain 
the World ; may the World, the mistress of the past and future, 
give us free room ; 

2. Unmolested among 5 the sons of man ; may the World, which 
hath ascent and descent and much plain country, which bcareth 
herbs having every one its virtue, increase for us and prosjicr 
for us. 

3. May the Earth, on which is (he sea, likewise the Great River 
[Rindhu], and the wafers, on which are corn and fruitful fields, on 
which all that hafh life and breath is quickened, make us chief 
among them that are well satisfied. 

4. May the World with its four corners, on which arc corn and 
fruitful liclds, may the Earth, which beareth everywhere breathing 
and living things, place us in possession of cattle which shall not 

dry. 

' The writer of llic following article desires to acknowledge the generous 
assistance which lie has received in its preparation, particularly in the translation 
of the Vodic Hymn, from Professor Until, of Tiiliingcn, ami lakes this opportunity 
of returning his warmest thanks to that learned and ainialdc man. 

2 Atharva Voila SanhilA. Ilcransgcgchcn von K. liolh mill I). 1). Whitney. 

" The reading vwdhyahii is here suggested in place of hulhyatai. 



322 THE VED10 CONCEPTION OF THE EARTH. 

5. May the World, upon which the first-born of old conflicted, 1 
upon which the gods overcame the demons, — may the World, the 
home of cattle, of horses, of birds, grunt us enjoyment and 
honour. 

C. May Earth, the place of habitation, which containoth all 
things, which holdcth all treasure, which sufferelh every creature 
that hath life to repose on her golden breast, — may Earth, which 
holdcth lire whose presence is in till men, 2 whose lord is India, grant 
us the object of our desire. 

7. May Hie Earth and World, which the gods, that never 
slumber, guard without ceasing, yield us sweet and pleasant things 
as it wore milk ; may they shower down honour upon us. 

8. May the World, which in the beginning was a floating- mass 
upon the moving water, which the Wise Ones sought after with 
cunning devices [whose heart is in the highest heaven — immortal 
— girt about with truth] — may the Earth and World give us energy 
and strength in high places. 

1). May the Earth, on which the waters, going round about 
continually,' flow night and day and fail not, — may the Earth 
give us milk [in a thousand streams] and shower down honour 
upon us. 

10. May Earth, which the Aswins meted out, on which Vishnu 
hath stepped, which plenipolent India hath rid of all his enemies, — 
may Earth pour out her milk — mother Earth to ino her son. 

11. May thy hills and thy snow-clad mountains — may thy 
wasle and woodland, World, be pleasant; [unwearied, unhurt] 
unscathed may I dwell on the World — on the Earth and World, 
which are tawny, dark, ruddy, of divers colours, firmly established, 
protected by India. 

12. About the middle of thee, World, about thy mi vol, where 
the virtue of thee lielh, even there do thou establish us — do thou 
purify us; the Earth is our mother, 1 am the son of the Earth; 
1'nrjanya is our father, may he further us. 

13. On the Earth do ntiuisfraut men enclose the consecrated 
ground, there do they lay out the sacrifice; there are (Ik; sacrificial 
pillars creeled — I lie upright, shining pillars before (he offering; 
may the glad Earth yield us fruits of gladness. 

' Sec v. 4H. 

3 Atjni hero as elsewhere comprehends both the divinity and the material 
represent 'lit. 

a T lie uniform distribution, of the waters is hcic considered, by which they 
neither fall short of, nor exceed their mark and hound. See Uig-Veda, v. 86, 0. 



THE VED1C CONCEPTION OF THE EAKTII. 323 

14. Jlini who hateth us, World, who plaguelh us, who 
provokcth us by thought or action 1 — liiui, Earth, do thou prevent' 
and give liim over inl.o our hands. 

15. Mortals that arc born of llteo do go upon thee, thou bearest 
two-footed thing's and four-footed; thine are those five races of 
men, upon whom the Sun at his rising doth shed immortal glory 
with his rays. 

16. May these all render tribute unto us; and thou, Earth, 
do thou give me sweetness of speech. 

17. The Earth is the mother of herbs, of whom all things arc 
born ; the Earth and World at'e sure, and established on a firm 
foundation, glad and pleasant ; may we walk thereon for over. 

18. Great is the place of thee, thou hast become great, great is 
the force of thee, the trembling and the quaking; may great India 
watch over thee and relax not ; thou, Earth, make us to shine 
like gold ; may no one hate us. 

l'J. Agni is in the Earth, in herbs; the waters contain Agni; 
Agni is in the flint rock ; Agni is in men ; in cattle and in horses 
arc many Agnis. 

20. Agni shincth forth from heaven ; the wide firmament is the 
place of the god Agni; men kindle Agni; — the bearer of the 
sacrifice, who lovcth fat things. 

21. May the World, whose garments arc of flame, whose kneCs 
are dark,' make me vigorous and active. 

22. On the Earth men present to the gods the sacrifice, the 
prepared oblation; on the Earth mortal men arc satisfied with 
food ; may the Earth give me breath and life, may the World make 
me to be full of years. 

23. With the odour which is produced of thee, AVorld, which 
herbs, which the waters contain, which the (landharvas and 
Apsaras delight in, — with that do thou make me fragrant; may no 
one hate us. 

24. With the odour of thee which has penetrated the firmament, 
— the odour which of old the immortals gathered and brought to the 

1 Vatlhnm, lit. weapon. 

* rtirvnkrlv.iri, u?r<i? Xtyu/nvnr. The translation is hero rendered in accord- 
ance with Hie reading, suggcslcd l>y Professor Kolli, pfirvalrtmii (Hie accent 
Uiua analogously villi piuvngiilvaii). 

1 Tlie ligurc in rather oliscurcly expressed ; the comparison Rectus to lie (o a 
swarthy person, in a mantle of bright colour (i.e. the mudi o 'li0, which only dis- 
covers from the kuccs downwards. 



324 THE VET>IC CONCEPTION OP THE EARTH. 

marriage-feast of Surya 1 — with that do thou make mo fragrant; 
may no one hate us. 

25. With the odour of thee which cxistR in humanity — loveliness 
and beauty in men and women — in the horse and in the elephant — 
which is the glory of the maiden — (ill ub, too, with that; may no 
one hate uh. 

2G. The Earth is formed of rock, and flint, and dust; the Earth 
is firmly wrought together* and established; to the World whose 
breast is of gold let me do honour. 

27. Where the timber trees stand fast for evermore, even to 
the World which upholdcth all things, which is surely founded, 
let us render praise. 

28. Rising up and sitting down — standing still and going 
forward — may we never stagger upon the Earth with the right 
foot or with the left. 

2i). I praise the World which is continually renewed, the 
patient Earth which rejoices in our prayer; may we dwell about 
thee, Earth, thou that bcarest refreshment and nurture, store of 
food anil fat things. 

30. Ma}' clean waters flow for our body ; that which defilelh 
us do we throw off upon him that is not lovely ; s I wash me 
thoroughly and am clean. 

31. All thy corners, Earth, to the east and to the north, to 
the south and to the west, may they become pleasant for me as 1 
go; may 1 not fall as I walk upon the Earth. 

32. Thrust us not away from behind, nor from before, — not 
from above nor from below ; bless us, Earth, may no robber 
come upon us; do thou keep far from us the destroying weapon. 4 

33. All the range of thee, Earth, which I look over by the 
help of the Sun — may the sight of my eye lose none of it, till the 
latest years which arc to come. 

31. What though, as 1 lie, 1 turn on my right side or on my 
left, — what though we lie us down with our backs against thee, — 
do not thou, therefore, harm us, Earth, thou cradle of all. 

1 Stwilar hail givenhis daughter ftitnjii in marriage lo Soma ; for tlic legend, 
which ia often alluded lo. boo Kig-Vcda, 10, 85, 9, and 99. Ailiireju ISialiiiiana, 
iv. 7. 

s The text reads innnUirlti, perhaps smnhlirlii. 

' That thin very unpleasant liuliit prevailed ia unfortunately confirmed in 
other pluccB. 

4 Or the murderer. 



TUB VBJDIO OONCEITION OF TUB BAltTIi. If 25 

35. That wliicli T dig up, Earth, may it quickly grow again ; 
may 1 not pierce through a joint or through the heart of thee, thou 
that continually renewost thy face. 

.')(!. May thy summer, Mirth, thy rains, thine autumn, thine 
early and late winter, thy spring, — may thine appointed seasons, 
thy years, thy day and night, World, yield us blessings as it 
were milk. 

37. The World, which is continually renewed unto perfection, 
in which arc the Agnis that are in the waters, took unto herself 
the serpent, though with trembling, while, giving up the godless 
Dasyus, — preferring lndra and not Vritra, — she was subject unto 
Sukra as unto her lord. 

38. May the Earth, on which are placed the tabernacle and the 
ark, 1 in which the pillar of sacrifice is set, on which the priests 
who know the ollices give praise with hymns and intonations, on 
which the ministers set themselves to their duties that India may 
drink the Soma; — 

39. May the Earth, on which the seven ancient Rishis who 
fashioned creation, being instant in service, extricated the kinc, 
by a solemn feast, by sacrifice; with dedication to holiness ; — 

40. May that Earth reveal the wealth which we covet; may 
Bhaga be on our side, may India prevent us. 

41. May the Earth, on which mortal men sing and dance with a 
loud noise, on which they war, on which the battle-cry and the 
drum shout aloud, — may the Earth do away with our adversaries, 
may the World rid us of all our enemies. 

42. To the Earth, on which is nurturing food, rice and barley, — 
on which are the five peopling races, — to the Earth, whose lord is 
Farjanyn, be honour, — to the Earth on which the rain drops fatness. 

43. In the World, where are the strong towers built by the 
gods, where is the ground on which they contended, — in the World, 
the womb of all things, may the Lord of Creation make every 
corner to be for our delight. 

41. May the World, that holdolh everywhere treasure in 
hidden places, give me wealth— jewels and gold ; may the boun- 
teous Earth, the kindly goddess, give me much wealth. 

45. May the World, that holdcth everywhere people of different 
tongues, of various customs according to their homes, yield me a 

1 XailcltavhiUiuiw havirdhdna appears to have liecn an ark or client on wheels, 
lo receive rioo or other offering!); sadua u hut erected in the consecrated ground 
foi Bacrificial purposes. 

VOU XIX. 7' 



32G THE VEDIC CONCEPTION OP THE EARTH. 

Uioufiand sources of pleasure, like a milch cow that standeth ready 
to the milker. 1 

4<>. Thy serpents, tliy scorpions of deadly bite, thy wasps which 
arc driven in by (he cold and lie in hidden places,— all thine insects, 
World, which are quickened into life in the rainy season, — may 
these crawling things not creep upon us ; favour us with the thing 
that is innocent. 

47. Thou hast many paths on which men go, a highway for 
the chariot and for the cart to go upon, the paths on which the 
lofty and the lowly travel ; may our path be rid of every enemy, of 
every robber ; do thou favour us with the tiling that is innocent. 

48. The World, which endurelh the burden of the oppressor, 
and beareth up the abode of the lofty and the lowly, suffcrcth the 
hog and givelh entrance to the wild boar. 

49. Keep away from us, World, thy cattle of the wild, thy 
beasts of the forest, thy lions and tigers, which go about to devour 
men, — keep far from us the jackal and the wolf, the evil being, the 
wicked spirit, and the llakshas. 

50. Defend us, Earth, from the Gandharvas and the Apsaras, 
the Aiiiya and the Kinudin, the Pisaeha, 1 and all the family of the 
llakshas. 

51. Two-footed winged things fly to the Earth, swans and 
eagles, vultures and fowls of the air; the wind comelh out of 
heaven and passeth over the earth, raising the dust and causing 
the trees to shake, and the Maine followelh all the gusts of the wind. 

52. Darkness and twilight are disposed, day and night arc 
ordered on the Earth ; the Earth and World are covered by the 
rains; may they grant us a pleasant home that it may be well 
with us. 

53. May the Heavens and the World and the Air make room 
for me in this place ; may Fire, Sun, and Water, and all the gods 
give me wisdom. 

51. May 1 be lord, ovon a Mighty One on the Earth, may I 
lord it mightily, lord over all, a conquering lord over the whole 
Earth. 

55. What lime of old, goddess, at (he word of the gods, 
spreading thyself abroad thou didst expand into greatness ; then 
did welfare enter into thee, then didst thou set the four coiners in 
order. 

1 Dlumiramtpaaphwanll, a cow Unit does not kick against the milker. 
J We should convey something of the idea by translating these names, " tho 
sprite, the faery, and the elf." 



THE V EI) 1.0 CONCEPT/JON Ol? TUB EAItTll. 327 

SG. In the peopled plaeeH, in tlio waste and woodland, in the 
congregation of men upon the Earth, in tlio assembly and in the 
gathering together, may our words be acceptable. 

57. Ah a home Hcatterelh the dust, bo hath Eiirl.1i scattered (lie 
people which have dwelt upon her since she existed, — yet is she 
kindly and prevenient, the protector of creation, hearing plants and 
trees in her bosom. 

58. May all the words that 1 speak be pleasing, according to 
my ap|>earance may they desire after me ; may 1 be full of force, 
pressing forward ; may 1 scatter all them that arc violent. 

f»i). .May the peaceful Earth, whose; fragrance is excellent, 
whose breasts contain the heavenly drink, whose breasts are full of 
milk, bless me,- — may the World bless me as it wen; with milk. 

GO. The Earth, which, by means of the offering, Viswakarman 
drew forth out of her hiding place in the mist, even the vessel 
which was to yield pleasure, as yet concealed in secret, was made 
manifest for the enjoyment of the sons of the noble mother. 

fit. Thou art the capacious vessel of humanity, bestowing 
all desires as it were milk, and art not exhausted ; that which 
thou lackcst may the Lord of Creation (ill up — the lirst born of 
righteousness. 

G2. May children be born to us, World, that shall dwell in 
thee, without sickness and without decay; do thou give us long 
life; never shall we be slothful in bringing to thee the appointed 
offering. 

G!J. Mother Earth, do thou fix and slablish me, that it may be 
well with mo; thou that art the associate of heaven grant mc 
prosperity and fortune. 



This hymn, like others of cipial length in this part of the 
Afharva Veda, is by no means to be considered as the result of a 
single inspiration; a slight inspection of its contents will sullice to 
show that the materials of which it is composed arc put together 
without any strict regard to continuity either of metre or of 
subject. An attempt to restore order into the confusion of 
this and similar compositions, can hardly hope to be more suc- 
cessful than to bring into relief some of the more considerable 
fragments. 

The first six verses of this hymn, which divide themselves into 
three strophes of four lines ouch, exhibit a fairly consecutive grada- 
tion in the expression of their subject, and are nearly identical in 
metre. The three verses which follow may reasonably be classed 

Z 2 



328 T11E VKDIC CONCEPTION OF THE EAItTII. 

together, as they scan to embrace one range of thought., and two 
trilling alterations will restore a sullieient unison of metro : this 
will be effected by striking out the line 8 b. which is inserted in 
brackets in the translation, — a change which is equally advan- 
tageous to the expression of the idea, — and by also striking out 
the word bhumidhiira in the line 9 c. It will be observed that in 
these stanzas the second line is in each case introduced, something 
after the manner of a refrain, a feature which we also remark in 
the tenth, twenty-second, and forfy-tiist stanzas, which stand 
widely isolated, but (with the exception of 10 c, which bears 
internal evidence of mutilation,) are sullioieutly identical in metre. 

Next in order we Hud a tolerably continuous fragment, which 
we are in every respect justified in attributing to a single source, 
extending from the eleventh to the seventeenth verse. The 
following suggestions are offered in older to restore a due metrical 
unity; in verse eleven, the words ajdto shuto at. the commencement 
are placed in brackets, and the first line of verse fourteen is 
considered as waning. 

Following the isolated and probably mutilated eighteenth verse, 
which, however, may find a place subsequently, we find a frag- 
mentary interpolation which seems rather to belong to an invoca- 
tion of Agni, but which, from its consideration of Agni as 
connected with the earth, the compiler may easily have thought 
admissible into the hymn. 

The twenty-third and twenty-fourth verses present the same 
refrain which has occurred in the eighteenth verse; the latter 
verse, us well as (he twenty-fifth, which also fails to harmonise with 
the metre, bears indications of mutilation in the construction, and 
under this supposition we may attribute them to a single 
inspiration. 

No difficulties present themselves in the way of grouping' the 
next three verses, and to these, as similar in metre, and bearing 
closet}' on one another in thought, 1 am inclined to annex the three 
consecutive verses, 33 — 35, omitting the line 31 a. 

The verses which are inserted between these two groups seem 
to have boon so placed on account of a correspondence of the 
thought, which they express, though bearing to them no metrical 
connection. 

Tht! two following verses stand entirely isolated, both with 
regard to the metre and to the subject matter, but are followed by 
a fragment which is apparently well connected, extending as far 
as the forty-second verse ; we may be justified, however, iu 



TTTE VF.DTC CONCKFTION OF TTTR EATtTTJ. 329 

holding llio linn !\S c. for sin interpolation, as the construction is 
exceedingly awkward. I have already suggested the reference of 
tht! forfy-lirsf verse to another place. 

Reyond I.Iiih point tlie text presents such a confusion of measure, 
that but one; considerable fragment can be gathered out of the 
remaining- twenty verses: this may include the verses 5.'5, 51, 5G, 
58, 50, and f>!5. These verses seem to form a quite distinct prayer, 
and are oddly enough separated by versos which scciu to have no 
connection with them, cither in measure or in sense. 

AVit.li regard to the remaining stanzas, it would not be easy to 
associate more than two together with any probability of their 
deriving from the same source, although (he fragment 'If! — 51 is 
evidently a continuous, expression of idea, ami the forty-six I It and 
forty-seventh verses exhibit a refrain which may possibly indicate 
that they are disfigured [tortious of the same original hymn. 

From what has been here said it will readily be seen that the 
hymn before us is a compilation made up of appropriate fragments, 
wherever they presented themselves in the materials which lay 
at hand to the compiler, the productions undoubtedly or different 
bards, put together in the somewhat careless manner which dis- 
tinguishes similar compositions in the Alharva Veda. The example 
may serve as a single confirmation of the general remark already 
made by Professor Roth,' that the compilation of this collection by 
no means displays that conscientious care ami intimate acquaintance 
with the subject which arc so admirable in the other Vcdas. In 
truth, however, the hymn loses none of its value on this account ; 
the compiler of course chose such fragments, drawn front a number 
of -witnesses, as contained the expression of that conception which 
his own or a preceding generation hail formed of the earth and all that 
is thereon: nor is the subject without interest. In the absence of 
all positive historic knowledge upon this point, we betake ourselves, 
not without a peculiar charm, to those early monuments which reveal 
the opinions and recall the remote traditionary legends which those 
•who, in point of time, were the foremost men of all this world, had 
entertained of the origin and existence of the earth and its 
inhabitants. For the rest,, this hymn possesses the special value 
that, with a single exception in the Rig Veda (Manditla, v., 8 t, 
three stanzas), it is the only one dedicated to the earth that 
occurs among all those which Vcdic literature has preserved. 

1 purpose to consider briefly the conception of the earth which 

1 Abbiindlmtg liber den Allinrva Veda. Tllbingcn, 1650. Page. 8. 



330 THE VEDIC CONCEPTION OF THE EARTH. 

is here exhibited, bringing into comparison sonic similar charac- 
teristics which are discovered in the mythology of CI recce upon 
this subject. 1 In the absence, however, of those pro-Homeric 
and pre-llesiodic poems, which must undoubtedly have existed and 
held a place relative to that of the Indian Vedas, comparison must 
be sought chiefly in such allusions as show the germ out of which 
were developed I he subsequent mythologies which, in the plastic 
imagination of (he Grecian genius, so soon lost the simpler charms 
of pure nature-religion. 

The following hymn, which is preserved among the minor 
Homeric poems under (he lit U* — To I lie Mother of All — gives a 
conception of the earth possessing the coiupletest simplicity of 
earlj' nature-religion, and showing in many points a marked 
similarity to the Veda hymn. 

IIVMNI lloMEKICI, XV. (UauMEISTEu). 

1. I will celebrate Earth, the Mother of All, whose foundations 

are sure, 
The most ancient Earth, that nurtureth all things that are in 

the world ; 
Truly all things that move over the divine land, and in the 

soa, 
And all things that lly in the air, — all these are nurtured out 

of thy treasures; 
5. And out of thee are men blessed with children, and with 

fruitful increase, 
August Earth ! and it is in thine hand to give and to take 

away life 
From mortal men : but he is blessed whom thou, after thine 

heart, 
Shall be willing to honour, and all things arc in plenty at 

his hand ; 
His glebes are heavy with food, and in his pastures 
10. lie has wealth of cattle, and his house is tilled with good 

things. 
Their city is full of beautiful women, they rule their city in 

order, 
And great wealth and treasure follow after them ; 

1 Tlic principal works wliirli bave been consulted on this subject arc : Trailer's 
Criccliisclie Mylliologie, Welckcr's Qrieeliisclic Qollerlchrc, mid Gcrliardl's 
Griccliisulio Mylliologie. 



THE VEDIC CONCEPTION OF THE EAKTI1. 331 

And their young men rejoice in the freshness of their joy, 
And their maidens — in garlanded circles — with glad heart 
15. Sport and skip over the soft flowers of the meadow, — 

Even they whom thou shalt honour — august goddess— boun- 
teous doily I 
Jlail ! mother of the gods— consort of the starry heaven, 
And he willing as guerdon of my song to give me wealth that 
rcjoicctli the heart. 

This hymn, in its main scope and burden, as well as in some 
striking details, presents some expressions of thought remarkably 
coincident with that in the A lharva Veda. It will be observed that 
the first line of the Homeric hymn, by the allusion to the " firm 
foundations" of the Earth, in connection with the expression 
"mother of all," unites two attributes of the Earth which the 
earliest phase of nature-religion failed to distinguish, but which at 
a later period diverged into two distinct objects of worship — a 
distinction which is precisely described by Ovid in the lines 

Odiriiitii commune Ceres el Term tiicnl.nr, 
llice prrebct caiiaam frugibus, illn locum. 

The burden of the Alharva hymn is mainly devoted to this 
latter contemplation of the earth, as affording space and room to 
treasure, vegetation, and life, rather than to the consideration of 
those active agencies which it manifests in producing these, or to 
the operation of the changing results which they display. Thus 
the earth is invoked for " free room without molestation from 
men;" — is described as "suffering everything which halh life to 
repose on her golden breast," and as " bearing up the place of the 
lofty and the lowly," — as "surely founded," — "formed of rock, and 
flint, and dust firmly wrought together." In this contemplation of 
the earth, as the passive suslainer of all things, we find no hint of 
the tasteless speculations of later Indian mythology, as to that ou 
which the earth itself rested, — not the slightest allusion to elephant, 
turtle, or serpent. 

In the Grecian conception of the earth, on the other hand, more 
importance was early attached to the manifestation of active 
agencies and external operations, so that the passive function of 
the earth is alluded to, for the most part, incidentally, in the shape 
of those perpetual epithets, which seem like the echo of an earlier 
conception, rather than the expression of a lively realization in the 
mind of the poet, as iu the epithets — too? d<j0aX<U aid — <ya<a 7rtX«'fi>j 



332 TrtE VEPTC CONCEPTION OF THE EARTH. 

— fitXoii'a — tiipvarrppov, ill 1(1 ill lliO expression rya/»;« tupvoScir)? to 
which liiltor consideration, it will ho remembered, a quite special 
inipovliinco is attached in the Alliarvii hymn, v. 47. 

In llio contemplation of the earth as a mother— an expression 
which is also introduced in the Atharva hymn — "may mother 
Earth give milk to me her son ;" " I lie Earth is a mother — 1 am the 
rod of the Earth ;"— it. mimt lie remembered that this eoneejition in 
its earliest phase by no means embraces that relationship of mother 
which the later (i recks understood when they declined, ^yi} tWci< 
iirO/m'irovv. The conception which lirst symbolised the earth as a 
mot her, sis furnishing, l>y means of corn and fruit (which in the 
Atharva hymn are considered as tin absolute part of the earth, 
v. 35), food and nourishment for the human race, contains only the 
genu of that essential meaning which is attributed to the earlier 
symbol by 1'lato, and is used by him as an argument for the deduc- 
tion of his conception, in the passage in Menoxeiius : — (I'. 2i$8.) 

"A remarkable proof that the earth bore (<Wc) our forefathers 
lies in the consideration that everything, which has given birth, 
possesses the necessary food for that to which it has given birth,- 
so (hilt a woman who has given birth is readily distinguished from 
one who pretends to have done so, but has no fountains of nourish- 
ment for the birth; in regard to which point our earth gives a 
notable proof, that she has given birth to men, for she produced 
crops of whiv.it and barley, which are admirably adapted for the 
nourishment of the human species; and this proof is of far greater 
consideration in the case of the earth, than in the case of women, 
for the earth does not imitate women in conception and parturition, 
but women imitate the earth." 

The idea which is hero so precisely stilted, had at an earlier 
time found more general and less deliuite expression, as for example 
in Pindar :— (Nemea. VI. 1.) 

fV avfpuv, iv Qtiif yli'Of" Ik 

/uirjiof (i/ti/>ort|>of 

ii passage which should seem almost identical with the Ilesiodie 
line:— (Works and Days, 10K.) 

wC opoOtv ytyaaat Oeol Oi>»jroi r avOpuiirm, 

though the account given in flesind of the origin of the human 
race is totally at variance with this idea, and everywhere describes 
men as having been created by the gods. 1 

' Sec an essny " UUcr <lcn mvtlniH von don fuiif mcnscliciigeaclilcclitcm l>oi 
llcsiod." Itolli. Tiibinjjcu, 18G0. 



TIIR VEDtC CONCEPTION OF TTTE EATtTTT. 333 

The paragraph preceding that which lias been quoted lYom 
Plato alludes to tlio production of auinialH out of the earth in terms 
precisely Himilar to those which are applied to the origin or the 
human race. The Atharva hymn taken no notice of the origin of 
the animal kingdom, merely recognizing the earth as the place on 
which all manner of cattle, and beasts, and creeping things — the 
domestic cow, and the lion, and jackal of the wilds — have their 
existence. Tn particular, frequent allusion is made to the circum- 
stance that the earth, though full of good things for the service of 
man, is also the home of deadly beasts and reptiles. With these 
passages may be compared the fragment, to be found among the 
Homeric hymns, entitled— "To the mother of the gods;" its internal 
evidence satisfactorily proves it to have been addressed to the 
earth: — (llymni llomerici, xiv. liaumcislcr.) 

The mother of all gods, and of nil men, 

Do thou sing — sweet-voiced muse— daughter of great Jove! 

Her whom the echo of the cymbal and the drum, and the hum 

of fifes 
Delight, and the roar of woIvcr and tawny lions, 
And the re-echoing mountains. 

A further parallel to the idea which is here expressed of the earth 
rejoicing in the noise and activity of life, is found in the invocation 
of the Vcdic bard to the earth as the [dace where men shout and 
dance, where the noise of the battle-cry and drum are heard, 
(v. 41.) 

But tho activity ol life upon the earth was in general a feature 
of far greater interest to the Grecian than to the Indian; in this 
connection I refer to the contrast which is exhibited in tin; Vodic 
hymn and in the Homeric hymn which has been earlier given, in 
the nature of the blessings desired from the earth. In both, 
indeed, wealth and the good things of this world are prayed for ; 
but the latter presents us with a charming picture of the social 
pleasures enjoyed by those who are under the favour or the earth, 
while the former dwells only on the negative social advantage of 
being unmolested by others, and of not being hated by any one. 

It will be observed that each of these hymns closes wilh an 
invocation to the earth, as the consort of heaven. How (his rela- 
tionship originated — which is, at all events, readily conceived — is 
clearly expressed in different passages of the Atharva hymn; 



334 THE VEDIC CONCEPTION OF THE EA11TII. 

independently of lliosc passages where the personification is more 
substantially brought out in the Grecian poets, wo have a remark- 
able statement by YEschylus in the fragment in Athcnseus : — (xiii., 
p. COO U). 

ifuiiiv iVyvif oliftavof rpuam \0Ava, 
f(itt>c #1 yaiav \afifiavn yapou rwx»'»'' 
o/i/3(>of S' air' livt'uvTOQ oipafov ttkjuiv 
iii/dl yahiV ij St TiKTirai /J(ior«7t 
fiii\wv Ti fiooKtic Kiti [iiuv £i//i//rpioi', 
dtptiftwTic u>pa d' Ik votiZovtoc yapov 

Tt\ttti£ loTiV. 

To the subject of the earth's origin we (ind in the Vcdic hymn 
but vague allusions; these occur in vv. 8, 55, CO, and an expres- 
sion which may refer to the same myth occurs in v. 21). It should 
seem that reference is here made to a tradition of the earth having 
been concealed in the midst of a watery mist or nebula, out of 
which it was brought by the exertions of the gods in answer to 
the prayers and sacrifices of ViBwakarnian ; the myth implies a 
contradiction in itself, but seems to contain the germ of a tradition 
which lay at the bottom .of the three principal accounts of the 
earth's origin in the Grecian theogonies. The first of these, namely, 
that the Earth was produced out of Oceanus, which Aristotle 
declares to have been considered by many the oldest tradition, is 
but incidentally alluded to by Homer (Iliad, xiv. 201), 'Qxcavov 0cu>v 

iyi'i'C<Tii', and (24 C) *0in:iii»o» liaircft <yc'i'C<m Truvicaat tctcktiu Oceanus, 

it must be remembered, is here not the sea, which was itself pro- 
duced out of Oceanus. (Iliad, xxi. IDC.) Of the nature of this 
element it is probable that the ancients themselves entertained no 
definite idea; it undoubtedly refers to the chaos of the llcsiodic 
account, in which " Oceanus" is the personification of what we call 
the ocean, and it reappears at the basis of the Orphic theogony, 
which represents iEon as having been produced out of Oceanus 
through an intermediate nebulous substance. 

AVit!* this tradition of the earth's origin may Iks compared the 
myth of the Island of Dclos, which rose out of the ocean at the 
birlli of the god of light. 1 have the more pleasure in introducing 
the passages in Theoguis, where this legend is referred to, as it 
contains an allusion to (he sense of smell, which is brought into 
marked prominence in the Atlmrva Yeda, vv. 211, &c, but occupies 
no such conspicuous place in the Greek contemplation of nature: — 
(ISergk. Poet. Lyr. Gr. p. 381.) 



TIIE VEDIC CONCEPTION OF THE EA11TI1. 335 

4>oi/Jt iivnC ori ftiv at Old tIki, irirvta Arjni, 

^m'l'lKOC l>a$trtH: xtpttll' ItpttyjjafUl'lj, 
aOtiiKtrioi' K<i\\iOTov tirf rpnxoiiifi Xi'/ii-y, 

Troon /ui' ijrX>|iOi| Ai*;\oc «jriif»i<rii/ 
ifyijc ri/(/3pof7ii;c, fylXaffffl (5t yalrt TrlXwpi/, 

yilQiirrtv St /3«0i'C itoitoc. «Xoc iroXu/t. 

It will have boon noticed that the Indian myth represents the 
gods as anterior to, and auxiliary in, the origin of the earth, — a 
priority which is nowhere conceded to the gods of Grecian 
mythology; they are further described in the Indian legend as 
guarding the earth without relaxation and without slumbering 1 — 
a far higher conception of them than was entertained in the 
Grecian systems, in which they were as subject to fatigue and 
drowsiness as to the other weaknesses which arc incidental to 
mortal men. 

There remain some allusions, embraced in the Vcdic hymn, 
which the scope of this essay will not allow me to enter upon. 
Two especially might well furnish subject for particular investi- 
gation, and for comparison with what Grecian mythology offers on 
the same subjects; I refer, first, to that allusion to pie-historic 
limes which notices the victorious combat carried on by the gods 
with the daemonic powers here called the Asuras, and the conllicts 
of earth's primeval inhabitants among themselves; and secondly, 
to the consideration of lire in its connection with the earth, which 
is hero so prominently insisted on. 

But the Alharva hymn contains the expression of a religious 
idea, which proves the earth to have been viewed by the early 
Indian religionists from a bearing where the Greeks appear to have 
found no stand point. In the concise but forcible expression of the 
opening line of this hymn, we find the Ihree component purls of 
religion laid down as the basis of the world; truth and justice, as 
the rule and conduct of life in its relation to others; religious 
consecration, temperance, and abstinence as the rule of self- 
guidance and the means of inward purify; and prayer and sacrifice 
as the outward manifestation of devotion and obedience (o the 
gods. Hence it is obvious that, in their conception of the world, 
they embraced more than the idea of a natural material power, 
and strove after the recognition of an unknown power — a supreme 
spirit of order, which had created and ordered all things in just 
proportion, whose equilibrium was maintained by the absence of 

1 For instances in Die Veda wlicrc Hie watchful providence of Hie gods is 
fully recognised, sec the KBsay on the five oges mentioned above, page 18. 



336 TTIE VEDIC CONCEPTION OP TIIE EARTH. 

all excess, a ul whose prerogative it was, as the disposer of all 
things, to be cntroaleil for his favour. Hut of this spiritual 
recognition no more was possible to these early religionists than 
dim and uncertain foreshadowings, which lost themselves more and 
more in material and visible contemplations, until the fundamental 
religious idea, in all its parls, came to be considered merely as the 
means of obtaining material benefits and enjoyments. 

But out of this religious idea, which was beyond the horizon of 
Grecian inspection, arose an idea of the purity of the earth, which 
is here represented as continually renewing itself of all impurities, 
and further, a connection of the earth with the material parts of 
religion, which is more than once alluded to, and in the prosecution 
of which idea the earth is invoked as the ground on which the 
services of religion arc performed. Vv. 13, 2!), 30, 38. 

In conclusion, I offer a single remark upon the style of this 
Vedic composition ; it is one of great simplicity ; the earth is, for 
the most part, considered as j'iclding its blessings and its good 
things under the simple figure of a cow, the most frecpicnt of all 
illustrations in the Veda, and as expressive of its kindly bounty, 
it is here naively alluded to as a cow which docs not kick against 
the milker.